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Henderson candidate forum canceled by city over ethics concerns

Updated March 3, 2023 - 12:49 pm

A handful of confused locals gathered just inside the front door of the Heritage Park Senior Facility in Henderson on Tuesday to attend a candidate forum for the city’s Ward 1 special election when candidate Ali Nilson explained to them that the event had been canceled by the city.

The event was set to feature all seven candidates on the special election’s ballot, the first time all of them would be in one place ahead of the election. Event organizers with the River Mountain Ranch Estates and multiple candidates said the cancellation came about an hour before the event was set to begin.

“They were just told last minute that it couldn’t be done. I don’t think that’s fair,” said local resident Nancy Olds.

The Ward 1 special election will fill the vacant seat on the city council left after Michelle Romero was elected mayor. It is only open to residents of Ward 1, after a ballot measure for ward-only voting passed last year.

In an email to candidates provided to the Review-Journal, Sue Smuskiewicz, secretary of River Mountain Ranch Estates, said the event was canceled because, in an effort to remain impartial in local elections, the city prohibits holding candidate events in city buildings.

Henderson spokeswoman Madeleine Skains said the city canceled the event “in an abundance of caution” to make sure the city and candidates did not violate ethics laws through the event. Skains said the city found out it was a campaign event after business hours on Tuesday and it wasn’t able to find out more details to determine whether the event followed ethics laws.

Representatives from River Mountain Ranch Estates, multiple candidates, attendees and Elizabeth Trosper, Jim Seebock’s publicist, all said the organization has held similar election events on public property in the past.

Melissa Woodbury and Alex Kleytman could not be reached for comment regarding the cancellation, but other candidates expressed their disappointment.

“You know, I thought it would have been great to get all seven of us in one room, and I’m bummed that it didn’t happen,” said candidate Ali Nilson.

Business strategist Tim Cox said he was disappointed in the event’s cancellation and highlighted the efforts of the organization in trying to salvage the event after hearing from the city. Boulder City police officerAaron Johnson also commended the work of River Mountain Ranch Estates and said he looked forward to the event before it was canceled. Seebock said he hopes another forum with all of the candidates can be held before the election.

Some people close to the election, including Lisa Mayo-DeRiso with Aaron Johnson’s campaign, said the event was canceled in connection with Seebock instead appearing at the Sheriff’s Asian Advisory Council in Las Vegas Tuesday night at the same time the candidate forum would’ve been held in Henderson.

Trosper, Seebock’s publicist, called the allegations “laughable,” saying Seebock and his campaign were looking forward to the event and promoted it in a campaign newsletter.

“I am highly disappointed that this event was canceled. There is absolutely no truth in the allegations that we would want it canceled,” Trosper said.

Trosper said Seebock decided to attend the sheriff’s event after learning of the cancellation.

Candidates were invited to meet with City Clerk Jose Luis Valdez after next week’s city council meeting to discuss the cancellation, according to an email sent to candidates that was provided to the Review-Journal.

Contact Mark Credico at mcredico@reviewjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCredicoII.

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